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London's Burning: a season exploring the capital's radical past, present and future
23rd July - 20th August 2014

THE THREE IMPOSTERS PRESENT ‘Machen’s London Adventure’ with Robert Kingham
Wednesday 23rd July, 7pm

‘London Irish Fictions’ with John Healy and Tony Murray
Wednesday 30th July, 7pm

‘Resisting the First World War in Camden and Islington’ with Ben Copsey
Wednesday 13th August,7pm

'Spark in the Dark’ with John Constable
Wednesday 20th August,7pm

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We regularly have a variety of events in the shop, and are always welcome for suggestions from authors, artists and campaigners who want to use the shop for evening events. Past events include talks, book signings, film screenings, art exhibitions and musical performances.

Click here for an archive; which includes a number of selected filmed highlights, of our previous events. Also, you can view video from some special events here.

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‘Machen’s London Adventure’
with Robert Kingham

Wednesday 23rd July, 7pm

Three Impostors press ( unveil their new edition of Arthur Machen’s ‘The London Adventure’, a classic of psychogeographical writing in the form of an unorthodox memoir of the time Machen spent as a reporter for the Evening News in the early part of the 20th century, wandering the hidden byways and forgotten corners of the capital. The book has been out of print for many years and is very difficult to find.

The new edition is a hardback limited to 250 copies, with photographs and endnotes, and a foreword by Merlin Coverley, author of ‘Psychogeography’ (2006) and ‘The Art of Wandering’ (2012). At the launch there will be a presentation by writer and tour guide Robert Kingham, who will talk about Machen’s London, and his idea that the apparent reality of the city streets around us is actually a ‘thin veil’ of illusion, which can sometimes lift to reveal another world.

Complimentary wine and soft drinks will be provided.

On Saturday 26th July as a follow up to the book launch, Rob will be leading his ‘Grey Soul of London’ walk in search of history and beer through the worn and hollowed streets of Finsbury, a ‘devious and obscure’ district that inspired a rich seam of wonder and awe in Machen’s writing. Booking details will be available at Housmans on July 23rd, or at

‘London Irish Fictions’
with John Healy and Tony Murray

Wednesday 30th July, 7pm

Tony Murray’s ‘London Irish Fictions’ is the first book about the literature of the Irish in London. By examining over 30 novels, short stories and autobiographies set in London since the Second World War, Murray investigates the complex psychological landscapes of belonging and cultural allegiance found in these unique and intensely personal perspectives on the Irish experience of migration. As well as bringing new research to bear on the work of established Irish writers, this study reveals a fascinating and hitherto unexplored literature, diverse in form and content.

Among the works studied in Murray’s book is John Healy’s unflinchingly honest autobiography ‘The Grass Arena’, in which he describes his experiences of addiction, his escape through learning to play chess in prison, and his ongoing search for peace of mind. It won the 1989 J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography and is now published as a Penguin Classic.

Healy recounts his fifteen years living rough in London without state aid, when begging carried an automatic three-year prison sentence and vagrant alcoholics prowled the parks and streets in search of drink or prey. When not united in their common aim of acquiring alcohol, winos sometimes murdered one another over prostitutes or a bottle, or the begging of money. Few modern writers have managed to match Healy's power to refine from the brutal destructive condition of the chronic alcoholic a story so compelling it is beyond comparison.

John Healy is also the author of ‘Streets Above Us’ and ‘Coffeehouse Chess Tactics’. A documentary about Healy's life and work, ‘Barbaric Genius’, premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival in 2011.

Tony Murray is Director of the Irish Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University.

Praise for ‘The Grass Arena’:

‘Terrific’ - Harold Pinter
‘A masterpiece’ - Irvine Welsh

 ‘Beside it, a book like Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London seems like a rather inaccurate tourist guide' – Professor Colin McCabe

‘Resisting the First World War in Camden and Islington’
with Ben Copsey
Wednesday 13th August,7pm

In the year of the centenary commemorations surrounding the start of the First World War,  Peace Pledge Union has undertaken a project called ‘Objecting to War’, which explores and documents the stories of those who refused to fight, so they are remembered and their reasons understood.

Camden and Islington were focal points of CO activity during the war, and among the hundreds of different histories from the boroughs are examples of the whole range of the CO story. From Jewish Orthodox to radical Socialist, market gardening to death sentences, COs from Camden and Islington experienced every punishment, stood for every cause and concentrated the anti-war movement into an organisation that would not just outlast the war, but continue to the present day.

Over 16,000 men registered as conscientious objectors after the introduction of conscription in 1916. Many were imprisoned for their beliefs, subject to threats of execution and to torture. Over 100 would die as a result of their objection. After the war they were often shunned and their experiences untold, but their contribution to the causes of human rights and prison reform as well as their tireless campaign for peaceful solutions to world problems ensures they are an important part of 20th century history.

‘Objecting to War’ focuses on unearthing the lives and stories of these conscientious objectors in the Greater London area.  Each individual had their own reasons and motivations for refusing conscription and the Peace Pledge Union wants to discover what those were. Was it for religious reasons? Was it for political beliefs? What happened to them, during and after the war? Why were they so dedicated to their refusal to kill?

Project Officer of ‘Objecting to War’ Ben Copsey, will be presenting some of the many stories he has uncovered, as relating to boroughs local to Housmans Bookshop, Islington and Camden

Ben comments “‘Objecting to War’ will help volunteer researchers to uncover the relevance of these forgotten stories to the world today through our focus on the narrative of the life of a CO during the First World War, from surveillance, harassment and unfair trial, to imprisonment, torture and – in some cases – death. We will focus on the stories of these brave men and women who stood up to be counted as against militarism, conscription and the atrocities of war.”

‘Spark in the Dark’
with John Constable
Wednesday 20th August,7pm

Housmans are delighted to welcome Londonphile John Constable,  to read from his first collection of poetry. Best known for his 'Southwark Mysteries', his style has been described in 'Time Out' as 'like Shakespeare on acid'. The poems in this book encompass political satires and magical realist lyrics. In the line of Blake, they reveal the eternal, spiritual forms of our transitory, material world, celebrating the dynamic interplay of Contraries to challenge rigid belief-systems.

This transforming vision in action, as exemplified in ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ and in the later ‘Cross Bones’ poems, illuminates Constable's work as the urban shaman John Crow. In ‘Winchester Cathedral: Time Out Of Mind’, different ages, perspectives and literary styles collide to evoke a complex, and deeply conflicted, sense of place.

The other prose poem, ‘Wennefer’, is an hallucinatory, visceral, cautionary tale, retelling the Isis and Osiris myth in contemporary south London club culture.

'Past and present, sacred and profane jostle and collide in a glorious tumult... couched in verse that is muscular, ribald, and often dazzlingly rich...' The Times

'Blakean verse that resonates with modern life...' Freedom

'Like Shakespeare on acid...' Time Out

About the author

John Constable is a poet, playwright, performer and purveyor of unusual walks. ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, his cycle of poems and contemporary Mystery Plays, was performed in Shakespeare's Globe and Southwark Cathedral.

His stage adaptation of ‘Gormenghast’, his ‘Sha-Manic Plays’, ‘The Southwark Mysteries’ and ‘Secret Bankside –Walks In The Outlaw Borough’ are all published by Oberon Books.  His Radio 4 dramatisations of ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and ‘Chocky’ were released as BBC Audiobooks. His solo work includes ‘I Was An Alien Sex God’ and ‘SPARE’.

In his John Crow persona, he has conducted ritual dramas and vigils at Cross Bones cemetery in Southwark, where he has established a shrine and a garden of remembrance to 'honour the outcast'. 


Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross,
London, N1 9DX
tel: 020 7837 4473